MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just one day before a lawsuit challenging the Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance was heard in open court, the longtime Minneapolis bar Whiskey Junction announced it is closing the club.
Owners blamed their inability to profit on the looming $15 minimum wage ordinance set to take effect on Jan. 1.
“It’s something that was a pretty big victory, and something that people can feel some hope for,” said worker’s advocate Becky Eventyr.
That hope of a wage hike is being challenged. Low-wage workers were in the courtroom as merits of the new city ordinance were argued by the city and attorneys with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s just really a frivolous lawsuit, and a desperate attempt to grab straws to keep us from making more money,” said customer service worker Lennox Thornswood.
The Minneapolis City Council voted back in June to phase in a higher minimum wage to lift workers out of poverty.
The ordinance increases it to $10 beginning Jan. 1, and eventually $15 as early as 2022.
“It would be extremely burdensome on employers,” said Christopher Larus, counsel for the plaintiffs.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed suit in November, seeking a temporary restraining order to delay implementation of the ordinance. It maintains that minimum wage laws are the responsibility of state government, not individual cities.
It further argues that the ordinance will make Minneapolis a wage oasis, and create a paperwork nightmare for businesses whose workers travel in and out of the city limits.
Those businesses would have to track the hours worked by each worker while employed on jobs within the city limits.
“This ordinance would, for the first time, mandate an employer located outside of the city [to] do that tracking,” Larus said. “So it could determine whether or not that employee was working within the city limits for as little as two hours a week.”
Hennepin County District Court Judge Susan Burke took the oral arguments under advisement and is expected to issue a ruling soon.